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Dubai skyscraper touted as tallest-to-be marks 100 floors

The Burj Dubai skyscraper under construction here reached its 100th story on Tuesday, nearly two-thirds of the way in its relentless climb to become the world's tallest building by next year.
With 3,000 laborers adding a new floor nearly every three days, the US$1 billion (euro770 million) spire is days away from surpassing a neighboring skyscraper that is currently the tallest in the Mideast and Europe, Dubai-based developer Emaar Properties said.

When finished in two years, the Burj Dubai is expected to rise beyond 700 meters (2,300 feet) and more than 160 floors -- dozens of stories taller than skyscrapers in Taiwan, Chicago or anywhere else. Emaar isn't releasing its plans for the final height so it can add more stories if a competing developer mounts a challenge.

Predictions on skyscraper Web sites say the cylindrical Burj will loom over the city from a height of 800 meters (2,600 feet) or more.

"The tower is a symbol of the city's pride and a statement of our arrival on the global scene as one of the world-class cities," Emaar chairman Mohammed Ali Alabbar said in a prepared release.

Exhibiting a flair for the luxurious that is typical of Dubai, one of the skyscraper's high-profile tenants will be the Armani Hotel, developed with Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani. The spire will also contain private apartments and offices.

The world's tallest current building, at 101 floors and 509 meters (1,671 feet), is the Taipei 101 in Taiwan, though Toronto's CN Tower is 55 meters (180 feet) higher, largely because of its huge antenna.

The dramatic concrete and steel framework of the Burj Dubai has risen 347 meters (1,140 feet) above the surrounding desert since excavations began in January 2004. The area surrounding the tower is the site of a US$20 billion (euro15.44 billion) overall development that includes several smaller towers set amid winding canals and a gargantuan shopping mall.

Motorists on the adjacent highway get dramatic daily views of the tower's progress, with 10 cranes and the world's fastest construction hoists zipping concrete slabs and giant bundles of steel rods to dizzying heights. The construction division of South Korean conglomerate Samsung is building the Burj Dubai, which is one of just six buildings in the world that are 100 or more stories high, Emaar said.

Samsung's three-day-per-story construction technique was pioneered on skyscrapers in South Korea and involves pumping liquid concrete into a form that is removed and jacked to a new level after fresh concrete is allowed to dry for just one day, said Beejay Kim, Samsung's Dubai-based business manager. "We're not breaking any speed records, just the height record," Kim said.

The silvery steel-and-glass building will restore to the Middle East the honor of hosting the earth's tallest structure -- a title lost in 1889 when the Eiffel Tower upset the 43-century reign of Egypt's Great Pyramid of Giza.

Only one building in the Middle East remains taller: the nearby Emirates Office Tower, a skyscraper resembling a razor blade that rises to 355 meters (1,165 feet).

Elsewhere in the Mideast, Dubai's sail-shaped Burj al-Arab hotel stands at 321 meters (1,053 feet) and the Kingdom Center in the Saudi capital Riyadh is 302 meters (991 feet).

Europe's tallest building, the Triumph Palace in Moscow, rises to just 264 meters (866 feet).

Asked how long the Burj Dubai would hold the world record, Kim said he was unsure.

"If anyone is looking for an even taller building, we are happy to build it," he said.

The Persian Gulf city of Dubai has staked its fame on bold engineering, building attention-grabbing projects including manmade resort islands shaped like palm trees, a mall with indoor skiing, and a vast Disney World-style amusement complex that includes plans for an apartment building that rotates on its axis.

Dubai began building skyscrapers to gain international prestige, not, like Hong Kong and New York, because of a shortage of land. But Dubai's skyscraper binge has jacked up land prices so much that tall buildings are the only feasible use for coveted building lots in the city's central district.

The Burj Dubai owes its shape to American architect Adrian Smith, of the Chicago firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Smith also designed Shanghai's 420-meter (1,378-foot) Jin Mao tower, the world's fifth tallest.

The other 100-story buildings are: The Sears Tower in Chicago (110 floors); Ryugyong Hotel in North Korea (105 floors); the Empire State Building, New York (102 floors); Taipei 101 (101 floors); and the John Hancock Center, Chicago (100 floors).


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